By Dan Harkins
ORANGE CITY - The city's only charter school, the 1-year-old Reading Star Academy of Excellence, was shut down by the Volusia County School Board just a few days before the school year began for an overall lack of excellence.
Nancy Waits, school board spokeswoman, said nearly 60 children were set to start this week at Reading Star until last Friday, when some parents were told about the closing when they arrived for an open house.
Weighing 22 violations of the school's charter, including several citing poor fiscal management and lackluster academics, the school board issued the school a notice in April that it wouldn't be renewing its contract. Part of that decision, Ms. Waits said, had to do with the school's failing grade on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
"They're all our students," said Ms. Waits, referring to those enrolled in charter schools, which still are overseen and licensed by the county school board. "Though they operate independently, we're still responsible for the oversight."
The school's board of directors appealed the county school board's decision and had a hearing set for Sept. 24.
"But as we were preparing for that hearing," Ms. Waits said, "both sides mutually agreed that it would be in the best interest of the students if we just shut down the school before the year started and get the kids enrolled in other schools."
In return for shutting down, the school will get $40,000 in money it was owed from state and federal coffers.
Parents of Reading Star students, who received Spanish and English instruction at the school, were made to hastily enroll their children in one of the county's eight other charter schools, a private school or the public school for which their children are zoned.
The students, she said, are spread throughout the area, from DeLand to Deltona, so other schools shouldn't be hard-pressed to accommodate them.